AKO SI ANNA.
Hi! I'm Anna Balagtas (she/they) and I'm a first-generation queer Filipina settler on the ancestral lands of the Attawandaron/Chonnonton, the Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples and the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit (Guelph, ON).
I'm a radical birthworker, reproductive justice advocate, educator, and communications creative with my practice rooted in queer decolonial carework and the prioritization of QTBIPGM wellness, equity, and abundance.
In 2020, I founded Pocket Doula, a landing space for folks to learn more about reproductive justice and birthwork in the Canadian context. In 2021, I became the Executive Director of Cornerstone Birthwork International in which I help develop training and curriculum focused on full spectrum birthwork. The training is called Capstone Canada. In Capstone, the modules are focused on radical and political carework ie. supporting sex workers, supporting undocumented folks and migrant rights, supporting incarcerated birthing people, etc.
In my work today, I'm focused on community collaborations that disrupts and dismantles systems that no longer serve us and I'm seeking ways to become co-conspirators with folks who want to move towards a path of liberation through reproductive justice and community organizing.
HOW DID POCKET DOULA COME TO BE?
Before I became a birthworker, I was (and sometimes still am) a nanny for different families in Toronto. I love all my kiddos so fiercely. I love their parents too. As I was moving through the childcare world, I knew that this line of carework wasn't my forever calling. Though I loved witnessing kids and their magic as well as supporting the parents support themselves - I felt there was something bigger.
When I was first introduced to birthwork (or, a doula), I had no idea what it was. From my understanding a doula was a non-medical person who helped people give birth and take care of babies postpartum. I was thrilled! I felt this was exactly what I was trying to move into.
I took the weekend classes that were available to me in person. Spent tons (and I mean tons) of money investing into "approved" trainings - all to feel completely lost at the end. Though I knew I so badly wanted to be a doula - the workshops I attended and the trainings I took part of just didn't reflect what I felt like I needed to know. But the problem was... I didn't know what I needed to know. Which made it all the more confusing. A year and thousands of dollars later, I took a step back from birthwork. I wasn't sure this work was for me anymore.
WAIT, YOU QUIT BIRTHWORK?
Yes, but only for a year. Eventually I started exploring birthwork again - but this time I started to move into community spaces that taught me that birthwork is entirely political and entirely radical. This was the very first time I was hearing and learning about the intersections of politics within reproductive care and it blew my mind. Shoutout to Cornerstone Birthwork for being the first to radicalize my practice and to king yaa for further decolonizing and queering up my view of carework!
Since my emergence in political carework, being a birthworker made so much more sense to me. The reason I felt so confused and left behind in my other trainings was because the facilitations didn't meet my needs. We didn't talk about anti-racism, we didn't talk about harm reduction, we didn't talk about trauma-informed care, we didn't talk about capitalism or appropriation or advocacy - my original training was never rooted in birth justice. To this day, I am still unpacking, learning, and unlearning the lessons of reproductive justice.
SO, WHAT'S POCKET DOULA UP TO NOW?
Nowadays, I spend a lot of my time community organizing and seeking ways to meaningfully collaborate with folks on reproductive justice based projects.
Though I still take clients for birth, postpartum, and reproductive care support - my passion is transitioning into supporting emerging birthworkers in radicalizing their practice.
Since 2020, Pocket Doula has moved through beautiful transitions of what it means to be an independent business that is continuously shifting and growing to meet the needs of the community.
The founding year of Pocket Doula was full of exploration, curiosity, and listening. In 2021, I moved into education, community organizing and created our Birthworker's Community Calls, Ating Bahay workshop, Kapitbahay mentorship, and many other community-centered events. In 2022, I began prioritizing organizational collaborations, consulting, and speaking on decolonial and radical carework. In 2023, I hope to keep disrupting and dismantling systems in all the ways mentioned above and expanding Pocket Doula to become a resource hub to learn more about the importance of reproductive justice and radical birthwork.
This work is the work of the collective and it's such a privilege to be part of your community. Thank you for witnessing me and allowing me to witness you!